BNSF Railroad Pleads for US Government to Pay for Life Saving Train Technology

A leading freight railroad has been urging Congress to pay for passenger railroad companies to install positive train control or PTC on all passenger trains. 

BNSF Railway has been one of the leading companies promoting the use of PTC, a technology that will slow a train down automatically that is going over the speed limit.

PTC will eventually be required by law for all freight trains. But BNSF says that the efforts for more train safety will be futile if passenger and commuter trains do not have the same technology; all of the various types of trains share the same tracks.

BNSF is actively urging Congress to fund PTC for commuter rail services. The head of BNSF told Congress this month that he fears that a crash will happen where a freight train has PTC but the passenger train does not.

Congress first gave commuter and freight trains until Dec. 31, 2015 to install PTC. This advanced GPS technology can prevent derailments, collisions, crashes and improper train switching.

But railroads struggled to meet the deadlines and lawmakers gave them until the end of 2018 to comply. However, recent train crashes in New Jersey and elsewhere have increased pressure on stakeholders to get PTC done as soon as possible.

Freight trains are getting PTC installed faster than commuter trains. BNSF recently tested 35,000 PTC segments in the last 60 days, and 85% of them had no problems.

Our View

Our railroad accident attorneys have long been advocates of PTC. The idea of positive train control has been around since 2008 when a Metrolink crash in California killed the train operator and two dozen others. In that terrible train crash, the operators was texting a friend on a cell phone, which caused him to run a red light, and tragedy resulted.

President Bush signed a law that would require all railroads to implement PTC systems by the end of 2015. Now the deadline is the end of 2018. We hope it is installed before then because the Federal Railroad Administration states that the system could prevent up to 52 accidents each year.

The new system is expensive and will present both time and financial challenges for railroad companies. But the fact is that the technology will save lives. Also, major freight companies are largely on schedule with PTC. Commuter and passenger trains are lagging, but perhaps with some federal help, they will be able to meet the 2018 deadline as well.

If so, many tragic train crashes, personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death lawsuits could be avoided.

Owasso, OK Man Blames Railroad Crossing Crash on Malfunction

A man in Oswasso, Oklahoma is blaming faulty railroad lights and gates for him slamming into a train on Feb. 1, causing himself minor injuries and serious damage to his car.

Witnesses say that they were not surprised that the lights were allegedly not working and gates not functioning. Some say that it is a frequent occurence when trains roar through.

A local business owner in Oswasso next to the train tracks stated that trains come through all the time; other witnesses said that when the police came after the railroad crossing crash, the lights were not functioning at the crossing. 

PTC could prevent many train derailments and crossing accidents.

Several hours after the crash, railroad workers were working at the crossing. Sometimes the lights were on, but not apparently when  they should have been.

The railroad company stated that there was maintenance scheduled on the crossing soon, but it would not say if that was why the lights may have not been working.

Our View

According to Operation Life Saver, a rail safety education website, 244 people died in railroad crossing wrecks in 2015, and 967 were injured. However, there has been progress: Railroad crossing deaths have declined by 38% in the period from 2004 to 2013. 

Still, railroad crossing accidents can be very severe because of the sheer size and weight of trains. Our railroad crossing accident attorneys have worked on many railroad crossing cases in the last 10 years.

We once represented a driver in Prince William County, Virginia who was hit by a Norfolk Southern train. He and his two children were fortunately not killed but were seriously injured.

Our train accident law firm brought civil claims on behalf of the man and his two children.

Our attorneys did a substantial investigation of the railroad crossing accident. We found that the train crew had not acted in an unlawful manner and we also looked closely at the vegetation around the railroad crossing.

This was a concern because the man had stated that he did not see the train until seconds before impact.

We examined the common laws of Virginia and we demanded a settlement from the insurance policy of the driver and also demanded settlement from Norfolk Southern. 

There was a satisfactory result for this train accident case that we handled.

In the above case in Oklahoma, it should be investigated why there are reports that the crossing gates and lights were  not functioning when the crash occurred. Also, the fact that the railroad company had scheduled maintenance at the crossing could be a critical factor.

Exiting FRA Chief Hopes Technology Will Save More Lives

Ex-Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Chief Sarah Feinberg was in the job for only weeks in 2015 when a commuter train slammed into an SUV stopped on the tracks just north of New York City. Six people died in the train crash.

That Feburary 2015 train crossing accident highlighteed a problem that has been with the railroad industry for more than a century: the danger when railroad tracks and roads meet.

PTC could prevent many train derailments and crossing accidents.

Feinberg was a former Obama White House advisor who did not have railroad industry experience, and her appointment got plenty of criticism. She sought a new way of thinking regarding keeping the country’s 240,000 railroad crossings safe. Signals, signs, lights and bells are useful, but what if better technology could prevent many railroad crossing accidents?

Fenberg, who left the job as FRA commissioner with Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, truly tried to embrace her outsider status in the railroad industry.

In a recent interview, she said that she tried to hold railroads accountable when they did wrong. She also said that she had the FRA aggressively policy safety violations; the agency was able to close cases at a higher rate and collect more fine money each year than previous commissioners.

Progress After Tragedy

After the New York City commuter train tragedy, another train derailed near Philidelphia, killing eight. Feinberg pushed railroads to install positive train control (PTC) technology that would use GPS navigation systems to automatically slow trains if one was getting into a dangerous situation.

The technology had long been avaialble, but railroads had slow walked adopting it due to the cost. The industry convinced Congress to delay PTC implementation until 2018, but Feinberg fought back and would not accept any more delays. PTC will begin to be installed in 2018.

Feinberg hopes that the next FRA commissioner will continue to push for new technologies to reduce the number of train crashes and derailments each year.

Our View

Our train crash personal injury attorneys in Virginia are glad that ex-FRA Commissioner Sarah Feinberg was such a strong advocate for PTC technology. Our attorneys have been advocating for this technology for years. There is no doubt that PTC can reduce the number of deadly train crossing accidents and derailments that happen every year.

Our railroad crash attorneys know very well the terrible consequences that can unfold in a train derailment. We worked on a record-setting $60 million verdict in a train derailment case in 2000. It involved a gas station attendent who was severely injured when a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into his station.

PTC could prevent those types of tragic railroad accidents, and that is why we so strongly support it.

Long Island Commuter Train Crash Injures 100

A Long Island, New York Rail Road commuter train crashed at the end of a platform on Jan. 4 as it pulled into a station, hurling passengers to the floor and slamming them into one another. 

The front of the slow moving commuter train hit a bumping block as it was pulling into Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. The train left the tracks and slammed into some railroad work equipment. A rail also pierced the floor of one of the train cars.

Approximately 100 people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Many had been standing up, waiting to get off the train as it slowed.

Many people were carried out of the train on stretchers. Others sat stunned on the pavement, holding ice bags to their heads and bleeding.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the train crash.

Our View

Our Virginia railroad accident personal injury attorneys studied this Long Island train accident, and will be watching closely for the NTSB’s conclusions on the cause of the crash. This train crash bears similarities to the train crash that happened in Hoboken, New Jersey last year. In that case, the train engineer may have lost consciousness as the train was pulling into a station. That crash killed one and injured dozens of others.  Here, the railroad’s own track maintenance personnel may have been involved in the cause of the terrible crash, time will tell.

In the Long Island commuter train crash, it is possible that the engineer had a medical emergency or was distracted by something as the train pulled into the station. This could have been prevented if the train had been equipped with Positive Train Control (PTC), which would automatically stop a train before it is able to run a red signal orproceed at high speeds into a  dangerous situation, because PTC is capable of automatically slowing a train’s speed. The railroad industry has lobbied to delay federal mandates on installing PTC on train until 2018.  We fully appreciated that these safety improvements will cost substantial monies, but the railroads must be forced to make concrete strides in moving forward with PTC systems.

Anyone who was injured in the Long Island train crash could have injuries that could take months or years to recover from. In that case, filing a personal injury lawsuit could be appropriate. With appropriate legal guidance from a railroad accident attorney, a railroad accident personal injury lawsuit can result in compensation that can be used to help the injured to recover from their injuries, and to compensate them for lost work time.  Our railroad injury law firm lawyers have handled dozens of prior railroad derailments and light rail prior injury cases, throughout the eastern USA and have the knowledge and experience necessary in these type of cases.

Long Island Train Traveled at Double the Speed Limit Before Crash

A Long Island Railroad commuter train that crashed in Brooklyn on Jan. 4 was traveling at double the speed limit when it slammed into the train station. More than 100 people were hurt, according to federal investigators. 

The train was going more than 10 miles per hour when it smashed into the end of the tracks at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. The speed limit there is five miles per hour. The NTSB is continuing to investigate the crash and has not yet determined the final cause.

The train smashed into a bumping block during the morning rush hour. The train then hit a room beyond the railroad track and caused two cars to derail.

The engineer who was operating the train said that he could not recall the crash. Investigators stated that the engineer was very experienced, having started in 1999 at the railroad. He had started working at midnight and was near the end of his shift.

The NTSB noted that positive train control was not in place on the tracks where the crash happened. This is an automatic train safety control system operated by GPS that can slow trains automatically to avoid hazardous situations. PTC could have been installed on these particular tracks but they have not been.

Our View

Our railroad personal injury attorneys have long said that we want to see commuter rail lines in the US fitted with PTC as soon as possible. However, railroads have lobbied congress to delay implementation of PTC until 2018 at least. We hope that this technology is speeded up and installed on commuter lines and trains immediately.

When trains have safety problems and derail, the injuries can be terrible. We once represented a man who suffered massive brain injuries when a train in Hampton, Virginia derailed. It slammed into his gas station. The man’s family chose our firm because of our experience in handling major train derailment accidents. We were glad to have gotten a verdict for the man of $60 million, but we would like to see these railroad derailments never happen again.

 

 

Deadly Arkansas Train Collision Caused by Engineer Fatigue

A fatal crash and derailment between two Union Pacific trains in Arkansas on Aug. 17, 2014 was the result of a tired engineer and conductor who were likely both asleep on at least one of the trains, according to federal investigators this month. 

The dual train crash happened in Hoxie, Arkansas, and the NTSB reported that it could have been prevented by positive train control (PTC), a form of automatic braking operated by GPS, which Congress has mandated to be in place by 2018.

The train crash in Arkansas derailed 55 cars and killed a total of two people  – both crew members on different trains.

The NTSB stated that the southbound Union Pacific train hit the northbound train as it was turning onto another track. The southbound train passed two warning lights and a red signal, but did not slow down. There was no activity in the cab of the train before the wreck.

The board did not find the northbound train at fault. Several people on that train were seriously injured.

The engineer in the northbound train had moderate sleep apnea that was diagnosed in 2010.

Our View

We wrote about this fatal train crash in Arkansas when it happened. Our Virginia and North Carolina train crash attorneys have long been baffled that railroads have delayed the installation of PTC on their trains. PTC would automatically stop a train before it can run a red signal or get into another situation that endangers human life.

The Federal Railroad Adminsration states that PTC could stop 52 train crashes each year. We hope that railroads will implement PTC before the 2018; it will save lives.

Our personal injury attorneys are experienced in wrongful death and personal injury claims in train accidents. The need for robust state laws involving personal injury recoveries could not be more demonstrated by nationwide railroad highway grade crossing crash cases. While the federal laws provide for it national railroad system, when persons are harmed or killed in railroad crashes, the state laws system supplies the right of recovery for persons that suffer injuries caused by negligence.

 

 

58 Year Old Woman Seriously Hurt in RR Crossing Crash

A 58 year old woman was seriously injured on Dec. 9 at 8 am when her Pontiac SUV was struck by a commuter train heading towards Boston, Massachusetts. The serious railroad crossing crash happened in Belmont, MA. 

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The Massachusetts State Police stated that there were three children in the SUV as well. The six year old was still in the SUV when the train struck it. The woman driver was trying to get the child out when the train smashed into the SUV. She suffered serious head injuries and is in critical condition.

Some witnesses thought that the woman’s vehicle may have gotten trapped between the crossing gates at the railroad crossing, but the police are still investigating.

Our View

Railroad crossing accident happen often in America; there is a car/train accident every 12 minutes, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. Our railroad accident personal injury attorneys in Virginia also handle a good number of these accidents, and we agree that there are far too many of them. 

In many of these train/car collisions, the police may be quick to blame the car driver, but these accidents are complicated, and often the railroad and/or engineer is to blame.

In our time working on railroad personal injury lawsuits, we have seen safety gates fail and train engineers either falling asleep or being distracted, leading to a serious train accident at a railroad crossing.

Sometimes there is brush, weeds and trees that have grown up along the tracks and this obscures the driver’s vision.

The family of the seriously injured woman should know that this railroad crossing accident should be looked at very closely by an experienced personal injury attorney. The goal is to determine if the engineer or railroad was at fault in the tragedy. Head injuries are extremely serious, and even if the woman driver recovers, she could need hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover medical expenses.

 

 

Woman Severely Injured in Railroad Crossing Accident

A woman in Greenbrier, Tennessee was airlifted to a local hospital on November 2 when her car was hit by a train at a local railroad crossing. 

The accident happened at 5 am on November 2 in Greenbriar at the Wilson St. crossing. According to the local chief of police, the woman was in critical condition with serious railroad crossing accident injuries when she was taken to the hospital.

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Earlier in 2016, all of the railroad crossings in Greenbrier City were assinged a risk analysis score, and two of them were slated for improvements. It is not known if the Wilson St. crossing was scheduled for improvements.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents usually involve very serious injuries, and often death. Thousands of Americans die at railroad crossings annually across the country. In fact, the Federal Railroad Administration states that cars and trains collide every 12 minutes!

As railroad crossing accident attorneys in Virginia and North Carolina, we have seen railroad crossing accidents that happened for many  reasons. In many cases, the local police department just take the word of the railroad and blame the car driver for any accident at a railroad crossing. However, there are some railroad accidents where the car driver was not at fault.

Common railroad accident causes that we have seen in our personal injury lawsuit cases are:

  • Maintenanace problems: Sometimes a train can have defective brakes or a problem with the controls. Also, there can be vegetation that has grown up around the tracks and this prevents the car driver from seeing the oncoming train. 
  • Sleepy train engineer: Human factors, including drowsy engineers, cause 35% of car train accidents. Some engineers are overworked and they fall asleep on the job.
  • Train engineer is distracted: Some train operators are busy talking or texting on a cell phone, and they are not watching the tracks while the train is in motion.
  • Safety gate problems: Sometimes safety gates malfunction and stay up, even when the train is rolling through the crossing.

If your car is hit by a train at a railroad crossing, never make the assumption that it was your fault. This is often not the case at all. We recently represented a driver whose car was hit by a train in Prince William County, Virginia, and we were able to settle the cases for approximately $130,000. This was significant, because his children were injured in the car-train accident and needed medical care to recover.

 

 

Railroad Crossings Caused 90 Accidents in Alabama in 2015

When a 30 car train hits a car, the vehicles hit each other with the same amount of force as a car smashing an aluminum can. It is that type of force that leads to more than 2000 accidents with many injuries and deaths at railroad crossings around the country each year. Ninety of those were in Alabama in 2015, according to Alabama Operation Lifesaver. 

Alabama has 6000 railroad crossings and 3500 miles of tracks. This means that drivers and pedestrians encounter railroad crossings every day. Operation Lifesaver Alabama travels the state regularly on a 40 city tour to educate citizens about the importance of railroad safety for drivers and pedestrians.

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Operation Lifesaver says that it has helped to cut down car/train accidents across the US from 12,000 in 1972 to 2059 in 2015. Even though the number of accidents has declined, Alabama still ranks #6 in the US for the number of accidents each year.

While Operation Lifesaver says it is very important for drivers and pedestrians to pay attention and to stop at railroad tracks, it also is important for railroads to make sure the safety lights and gates at crossings are working, and that the grass, trees and brush are cut so that drivers can see oncoming trains.

Our View

Railroad crossing accidents can lead to serious injury or death. If you or a loved one was in such a railroad accident, we want you to have as much information as possible. There are many federal and state rules that affect the duties and responsibilities of the railroad company and crew that are using that railroad crossing. Some of the accidents that occur at railroad crossings are due to train engineer or railroad company error. 

One area where a train engineer can cause an accident is speeding through a railroad crossing; federal rules limit how fast trains can go through railroad crossings. Also, federal regulations apply regarding when a  horn or whistle must be blasted at a crossing. Further, trees, shrubs and vegetation at a railroad crossing must be trimmed so that drivers have an unobstructed view.

In short, railroad crossing accidents are very complex legally, and anyone in such an accident should speak to an experienced railroad accident attorney. Large settlements are possible in many railroad crossing accidents. 

Hoboken NJ Train Engineer Had Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder

The engineer running a New Jersey Transit train that slammed into Hoboken Terminal in September had a undiagnosed sleep disorder, according to his attorney this week. 

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The engineer, Thomas Gallagher, recently discovered that he had severe sleep apnea. The test results that confirmed the disorder were sent to federal authorities on Oct. 31.

Gallagher stated that he did not remember the crash at all, and he believes that the sleep disorder may have led to the accident that killed one and injured more than 100.

His attorney stated that the engineer believes that the sleep disorder caused him to black out just before the crash. Gallagher said that he remembered checking his speed as he should just  before pulling into the terminal, blowing the whistle and ringing the bell. The next thing he remembered, he was on the floor of the engine after the accident.

The train smashed into the station in the middle of a busy morning commute. The person who died was on the train platform and was struck by debris. Other commuters also were injured by flying debris, and some passengers on the train also were injured.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea can be a serious danger for professionals who operate trains, trucks, airplanes or other commercial transportation. The condition involves pauses in breathing during sleep, which causes the person to wake up. This can lead to excessive sleepiness during the day.

The Federal Railroad Administration or FRA stated this week that it would release a new safety advisory to urge railroads to more aggressively fight worker fatigue and to install cameras in trains.

Our View

As railroad accident attorneys in Virginia, we wish that the train engineer had been diagnosed with his sleep apnea condition as it could have saved lives. Also, this tragic train accident is another reminder of the importance of commuter trains installing Positive Train Control or PTC.

This system would automatically stop a train before it is able to speed excessively or to run a red signal. PTC was supposed to be installed on at least 25 US passenger train systems by the end of 2015, but it has now been delayed until 2018.

We hope that PTC will be installed on major commuter rail systems as soon as possible so that serious train accidents and derailments can be prevented. Our railroad attorneys have worked on major train accident cases involving large financial settlements and verdicts, and we would like to see fewer of these tragedies happen.